Why I Stopped Getting Routine Dental X-Rays

Why I Stopped Getting Routine Dental X-Rays post image

Summer vacation is a time for fun, but also a time to catch up on doctor and dentist visits, especially with the kids. As with any medical issue, you have to be your own advocate. Since I can remember, I have never followed my dentists’ recommendations on x-rays. It seemed to me that dental x-rays every 6 months or even every year was way too frequent for my liking. Finally, my stance on this issue has been vindicated.

Dental X-Rays Linked to Brain Tumor

In this study published in the journal Cancer in 2012, the researchers found that dental x-rays, particularly when obtained frequently and at a young age, may be associated with a statistically significant increased risk of intracranial meningioma.

It’s common knowledge that x-rays expose people to ionizing radiation that is cumulative. The more x-rays you get over a lifetime, the more exposure to ionizing radiation that accumulates in the surrounding tissues. and may alter the DNA.

This study found the increased risk for meningioma in people who underwent routine bitewing or panoramic x-rays.

The researchers reported,

The findings presented here are important, because dental x-rays remain the most common artificial source of exposure to ionizing radiation for individuals living in the United States.

Meningioma

Meningioma is the most common type of primary brain tumor and is generally benign (90%). It arises from the membranes that surround and protect the brain, called the meninges. However, if a tumor pushes inward, it can press upon brain tissue and would need to be treated with surgery or radiation treatment (ironically).

Typically, a small meningioma is simply watched and not treated. Upwards of 170,000 people have been diagnosed with meningioma in this country. Are these the people who go to the dentist consistently?

Children Are Most At Risk

Children are smaller and more susceptible to the negative effects of ionizing radiation as their tissues and glands are still growing.

Keith L. Black MD, chair and professor of the Department of Neurosurgery, director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, and director of the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Brain Tumor Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California said,

The importance of this study is that it shows that this is not a procedure with zero risk… As a general rule, we need to be more concerned about x-ray exposure, particularly in the younger population.

Derek Johnson, MD, a neurologist who specializes in neuro-oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota said,

I think this is the best and most conclusive evidence to date that low-dose repeated exposure — the kind of thing we come into contact with relatively regularly in our day-to-day life — is likely a true risk factor for this particular tumor.

Dental X-Rays Should Not Be Used As A Screening Tool

Dr. Black advises,

Patients and parents should have conversations with their dentists about the risks and benefits of dental x-rays… so they can make the most informed, intelligent decisions about when to get them. Dental x-rays should not be indiscriminately used as a yearly screening test for patients. They should use them only when they’re only critically necessary.

Thank you Dr. Black. This is what I have been saying for years and many dentists have not appreciated it one bit.

Always Question Routine Protocol

Sometimes folks are intimidated by health professionals and simply follow their recommendations. However, not all health protocols are in the best interest of the patient. While dental x-rays may help diagnose problems — or evaluate problems further, a skilled dentist should be able to look in someone’s mouth and see a cavity without need for a screening x-ray.

I never saw the sense in yearly dental x-rays and would refuse them, knowing that my dentist would see a cavity and certainly I would feel pain at some point if there was a cavity. I also knew that I ate well and took care of my teeth and gums so that I wouldn’t have these types of problems.

I was certainly shocked to learn that some dentists actually take routine x-rays every 6 months! Frankly, I think that is abusive and harmful to the patient.

The rationale is that some people do not take care of their teeth — which is true — but excessive exposure to ionizing radiation not a good alternative.

How To Improve the Health of Your Teeth and Gums

  • Eat a whole food, real food diet. Once you get rid of all the additives and hidden sweeteners in processed food, the bacteria that cause cavities (streptococcus mutans) will decrease.
  • Eat and drink less sugar. Sugar feeds the bacteria that cause cavities. You will starve them out if you don’t feed them sugars. This also goes for carbohydrates — particularly refined carbohydrates.
  • Brush with a non-toxic toothpaste.
  • Avoid fluoride. It does NOT prevent cavities — rather it weakens the teeth and too much cause fluorosis.
  • Cleanse your mouth with a natural protocol such as oil pulling.
  • Use cod liver oil daily for teeth and bone health — it’s a powerful defense against cavities.

Read my disclaimer.

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Here are some of the key topics that were covered and what solutions were offered:

  • We can actually remineralize teeth including cavities!
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  • Tooth decay happens mostly because of factors outside our mouths!
  • Steps each of us can take to reverse tooth decay naturally
  • The risks of dental fillings (AND your options if you have ‘silver’ fillings!)
  • The proper technique to have ‘silver’ fillings removed from your mouth
  • Why NOT to use fluoride in your mouth
  • What nutrient you can use in your mouth that are proven to lower risk of tooth decay
  • ALL or your options if you have root canals, crowns or other existing dental
    procedures — metal implants are not the only option
  • How oral health directly impacts whole body health
  • How what’s going on in our mouths may be a major cause of cancer!
  • What each of us can do in our own lives to create positive change!
  • How a simple, old school detox technique can help us live healthier lives
  • What specific questions to ask a dentist to see if they are sufficiently trained to help us without adding any toxic burden
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Need more information? I got you covered!

What do you do when your dentist wants to do x-rays? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Leave a Comment

  • Lori Alexander July 17, 2013, 8:36 pm

    I have had to have brain surgery twice for a reoccuring meningioma and it is not fun. It has made me very sick for many years. I won’t be getting anymore dental x-rays. It just isn’t worth it.

    Reply
    • Jill July 17, 2013, 8:59 pm

      Hi Lori,
      Thanks for sharing what must have been a horrible experience. I hope you are doing well now.

      Reply
  • Meagan July 18, 2013, 10:32 am

    My dentists office Xrays are all digital… I don’t think this counts?

    Reply
    • Jill July 18, 2013, 4:49 pm

      Hi Meagan,
      DIgital x-rays are better — but they still give off radiation. It is marketed as up to 90% less, but that has been debated, so it is unclear as to how much safer they really are.

      For the times when a dental x-ray is necessary, they are better, but should not be used in a routine way just because the exposure is less.

      Reply
  • poor dentist July 19, 2013, 12:19 am

    Please follow Lori’s advise. So many dentists have huge loans to pay off. We cannot pay our bills if you get routine xrays, use toxic fluoride, or dangerous fillings. By missing the small cavities and waiting till they turn into visible cavities or painful toothaches, dentists will be able to place crowns and implants. In fact, we’ll be able to just remove the source of all the infection and get rid of those pesky teeth. It is the least we can do to prevent problems outlined in such well accepted science. Thank you again for understanding dentists’ plight.

    Reply
  • john July 19, 2013, 2:58 am

    You must be kidding me. You are looking at a flawed study where people “self report” the number of xrays they had, and extrapolate cancer from it. Please do some real research. Don’t scare people and whip them into a paranoid frenzy. I really am trying to be civil about this…

    Reply
    • Jill July 19, 2013, 9:00 am

      This is research that was published in a peer reviewed journal. I’m certainly not trying to “scare people and whip them into a paranoid frenzy”. I’m simply reporting on a research study and giving my opinion. People should know the risks of too much ionizing radiation focused in on one particular area year after year.

      Just because this is an accepted protocol it doesn’t mean it cannot or should not be challenged and/or changed as happens as new information emerges.

      Hindsight is 20/20.

      Reply
    • Jen July 19, 2013, 6:34 pm

      JOHN!!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!! oh man – there is a lot of mis-informed information in this blog. I work in the dental field. No matter how skilled the dentist, no one has x-ray vision to see “interproximal” or in between your teeth once they are touching. Just think about how tight the contacts are when you’re trying to floss! That is the area that “bitewings” take a picture of. I personally would ONLY get digital x-rays for the simple fact that the radiation is so minimal. (About as much as siting outside for 30 mins// there is more radiation in a banana- even yes an organic one)
      ***We have had so many situations where an x-ray has saved their life! The practice I work for is very conservative with taking x-rays. One specific patient that comes to mind was 6 yrs old and we were taking a preventative panoramic or “growth and development” x-ray. Unfortunately, on the x-ray we found a massive tumor that was cancerous and would have not been diagnosed until it was probably too late since he had no symptoms. (rather than turning into a tooth, one of his molars developed into a tumor) that is the exact reason they take them (of course those are only needed every 5yrs as they are growing)

      Here are the AAPD’s (american academy for pediatric dentistry) recommendation for x-rays:
      http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/E_radiographs.pdf

      Feel free to ask your dentist about their machines and how well they test for radiation. AND check to see if they are being conservative. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding if someone needs an x-ray. Its so important to find a dentist you can trust that has your best interest in mind and not your money. I promise, they exist.

      Reply
  • jmr July 20, 2013, 10:40 am

    A few years ago, all the dentists I contacted started refusing to see me or clean my teeth without xrays. Sadly, I stopped going to the dentist. I finally gave in last year and got my teeth cleaned (with xrays). I had the same “no cavities/your teeth look fantastic what do you use on them” result I’ve had for the past 45 years…my entire life. I’m living in a more progressive part of the country now, but still having trouble finding someone to clean my teeth without xrays. Really, some of the comments on here are nuts…how did the human race ever survive without dental xrays!!?? Oh, we did survive…and thrive.

    Reply
    • Jill July 21, 2013, 7:55 pm

      Hi jmr,
      That’s exactly what happens to me — never any cavities! I guess I’m fortunate to have a dentist that respects my wishes.

      Reply
  • Laura July 21, 2013, 10:34 am

    Thanks for this article. So glad someone finally sees what is going on! Just had to switch dentists due to the X-ray issue and now am fighting about it with my endocrinologist about regular bone scans. Finally found a fairly holistic dentist and I do not use fluoride. I had braces as an adult and numerous panaromic X-rays. Within several years not only did I have thyroid problems and a thyroid growth but then developed breast cancer (both issues have been linked both to X-rays and fluoride!) The real kick in the pants is that I am married to a radiologist but my breast cancer was never picked up by it! I found it myself. I just wish the dental and medical community would realize that they often do more harm than good with excessive tests and X-rays!! Your topics are always so relevant. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Jill July 21, 2013, 7:56 pm

      Hi Laura,
      Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. We have to be our own advocates.

      Reply
  • tessa July 22, 2013, 10:01 am

    Thank you for sharing this info! We shared it with our FB readers at homesteadlady.com.

    Reply
  • T July 26, 2013, 10:11 am

    Ionizing radiation from x-rays does not accumulate in the tissues. It either passes through the tissues or interacts with the cells and causes free radicals. The free radicals are what causes the damage, not a build up of radiation inside of you. As an x-ray tech, we are taught to use the lowest dose of x-ray possible, but we are also taught that there is no research to show that a low dose is safe. Avoid x-rays whenever possible.

    Reply
  • John W July 26, 2013, 3:24 pm

    My dentist office actually had me sign a form of some sort the last time I refused the x-rays. Apparently after two years of refusals they have a form that states, among other things, that they might drop me from their practice.

    Reply
    • Jill July 26, 2013, 8:27 pm

      That’s either a scare tactic or CYA.

      Reply
  • Alex July 27, 2013, 12:02 pm

    The same happened to my uncle. I must say that was the horrible time he faced in that case.Thanks to his dentist.

    Reply
  • Crystal & Co July 29, 2013, 10:49 pm

    Something to think about for sure. It is so sad that far too many are lead to believe this is something they have to do.

    Thanks for sharing it over on my mommy resource site linky party last week. My readers found it very interesting.

    Check out your feature here: http://www.crystalandcomp.com/2013/07/mom-advice-72913/

    Reply
  • Brianne August 7, 2013, 11:26 pm

    I’m happy to say that my dentist was respectful of my wish for no X-rays, although that wasn’t surprising as he’s very holistically minded. However my insurance came back refusing to pay for any services without the X-ray proof that they were needed.

    *sigh*

    I am still trying to fix some problems caused by my “old ways”. I’ve not had any new dental issues since switching to a real food way of living four years ago. So hopefully once these are fixed nothing will need to be submitted to the insurance and I can get back to not having dental X-rays!

    Reply
    • Jill August 8, 2013, 7:48 am

      Hi Brianne,
      I’m not opposed to taking an x-ray when it is needed. Certainly if there is a cavity suspected it is wise to take that x-ray. I just feel that routinely taking x-rays every six months (or year) on people who don’t seem to get them is overkill.

      Reply
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  • lori February 4, 2015, 7:51 pm

    What are my legal rights to dental care without forced unnecessary x-rays?

    Reply
    • Jill February 4, 2015, 8:28 pm

      You have every right to make you own choices about what care, tests, etc. you receive. Just say no if that is your choice. If the dentist doesn’t accept that find a new one. I never get dental x-rays unless there is pain.

      Reply